Updated March 31 at 8:31pm

Report: More R.I. schools classified as needing improvement

Thirty-one percent of Rhode Island public schools have been classified in the lowest performance categories, compared with 25 percent last year. More

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Report: More R.I. schools classified as needing improvement

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PROVIDENCE – Thirty-one percent of Rhode Island public schools have been classified in the lowest performance categories, compared with 25 percent last year, the R.I. Department of Education said Monday.

In total, 87 schools were designated as Warning, Focus or Priority schools in the R.I. Department of Education’s 2014 school classifications report, more than the 70 schools in the state receiving low-performance designations in 2013.

The Rhode Island Accountability System, as the classification rankings are known, was designed to recognize outstanding performance among Rhode Island schools and provide support to low-achieving schools. The system evaluates schools according to eight separate measures, including academic proficiency and distinction, the number of students who participate in state assessments, whether schools have successfully closed proficiency gaps and made progress toward annual and long-term goals, and school graduation rates.

Using these measures, the Department of Education designates each school according to one of six classifications, in descending order by performance: Commended, Leading, Typical, Warning, Focus or Priority.

Focus and Priority schools are required to undergo a state-supervised diagnostic process to determine the challenges facing each school and develop a school-turnaround plan tailored to the school’s specific needs, according to a Department of Education release. Warning schools must also develop and implement plans for improvement, but on a lesser scale and without intensive oversight by the Education Department.

“School turnaround is a major undertaking that requires several years of progress before we can be confident that the improvements are durable,” said Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “As a result, we continue to work closely with all Priority and Focus schools for at least two years to ensure that they are on the road toward school improvement.”

Despite a higher percentage of schools assigned to three lowest performance classifications, Rhode Island also saw improvement in the number of schools receiving the Department of Education’s highest classification. Thirty schools this year were recognized as Commended schools, compared with 24 schools last year. Of those 30 schools, six have been classified as Commended Schools for three consecutive years: Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, Charlestown Elementary School, Classical High School in Providence, Fort Barton School in Tiverton, Rockwell School in Bristol/Warren and Scituate High School.

“I am glad that we have been able to honor schools from the majority of our school districts as 2014 Commended Schools, and I am particularly pleased that 18 high schools are among our commended schools this year,” said Gist. “Under our new Diploma System, these high schools have maintained high levels of proficiency while closing achievement gaps and supporting a high graduation rate.”

In 2014, the number of schools designated as Commended, Leading or Typical schools dropped to 190 schools, or 68.6 percent, from 209 schools, or 74.9 percent, last year.

To view a complete list of the 2014 school classifications, visit http://ride.ri.gov.

Rhode Island public education, R.I. Department of Education, Rhode Island school classification, Deborah A. Gist,

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